Ultra prolific Spanish exploitation film director Jess Franco explores the swinging 60s in this clunky and sometimes confusing espionage action thriller, The Girl from Rio.
Since this is the first time this Euro rarity has been available to watch in the UK I have to admit I was quite looking forward to seeing it, but it didn’t take me many minutes of watching it meandering its merry way across my television screen for me to lose my enthusiasm!
Although the plot is rather thin and bit of a muddle, I’ll attempt to explain it as best I can. Basically, super villain Sumura (played by the lovely Shirley Eaton) launches a daft plan to enslave all men with her rather limp army of warrior women populating her private island hideout. However, she’s made a substantial enemy of a local mob boss (George Sanders) who wants to take ownership of her wealth for himself, which leads to a James Bond-lite finale with one force invading another in an ultra-cheap homage to You Only Live Twice.
Into this fray comes Jeff Sutton (played by Richard Wyler) who is being employed by a millionaire to find his daughter who, he believes - quite rightly - to have been captured by the seductive Sumura for her own ends – well she is bi-sexual after all!
Probably the most interesting thing about The Girl From Rio is the general look and feel of it – it’s so sixties, it almost hurts! From the decor to the mini-skirted sirens and the music, it is so ‘of its time’ that it’s almost laughable. Whereas some films have aged well, this one most certainly hasn’t.
It’s a shame really as perhaps in better, more capable hands and with a more substantial budget this could have been a lot of fun and over the years materialised into a sought after cult film. But it’s a Franco film, produced by the ever ‘-tight’ Harry Alan Towers so it isn’t particularly good or much fun for that matter.
How times have changed since this film was made – in The Girl From Rio we see women swimming in hats that look like rubber versions of something they might also wear to The Gold Cup race track, we see – shock, horror - arm pit hair, some very dodgy fashions and hear some pretty trippy music, including a theme song which sounds as if it might have possibly been sung by the same woman who sang ‘White Horses’ for the TV show of the same name! The song trills: “She plays with men as a cat plays with mice”, although I don’t ever remember seeing mice being strapped to a funky 60’s altar to be seduced to death by its tormentor or maybe I’ve just led a very sheltered life!
The film’s action scenes are pretty bad with hand-to-hand fights being very jerky and the final gun battle being played out without any bullets being fired – talk about low budget! But the film’s locations are very nice with some decent photography, although Franco still employs too many zooms… There are also some scenes showing the Rio carnival, which surely must have been inserted into the film just to pad out the running time a bit more as they don’t really enhance the film much.
If you enjoy really cheesy 60’s spy films with a cult vibe to them then give this one a go, but be warned it unravels in a fairly nonsensical way and also very sluggishly.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Mediumrare Entertainment have recently released The Girl From Rio and the review copy I had featured a number of extras including interviews with Jess Franco, Shirley Eaton and Harry Alan Towers and a slideshow (basically B & W stills from the production). The 15 minutes worth of interviews are quite interesting with Eaton admitting to having being annoyed when she discovered that she’d been doubled for the soft-core seduction scenes, which were allegedly shot without her knowledge. Apparently George Sanders killed himself shortly after production had wrapped and Eaton herself quit the business shortly after – so it wasn’t a good career-making movie! Jess and Harry shot most of another film (99 Women) while they were out there, which is a WIP flick apparently.